Prisoner serving life imprisonment sues appeals court after staffer’s suicide reveals all pro se filings by prisoners automatically denied

By Kyle Barnett | Jan 6, 2014

GRETNA – A man serving life imprisonment at Angola for habitual arson is suing a number of current and former state appeals court judges after one of the court’s staffers committed suicide and revealed in his suicide letter that he had been ordered to deny around 2,500 pro se appeals by prisoners.

Michael Brown filed suit against Edward A. Dufresne Jr., Thomas F. Daley, Marien F. Edwards, Susan M. Chehardy, Walter J. Roth Child, Fredericka Homburg Wicker, Greg G. Guidry, Thomas J. Kliebert, Sol Gothard, H. Charles Gaudin, James Cannella, John and Jane Doe and X 42 Insurance company in the 24th Judicial District Court on Nov. 18.

Brown alleges that in his 2008 suicide note Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Central Staff Director Jerrold Peterson revealed illegal and unethical acts by the court including the automatic dismissal of over 2,500 pro se appeals by prisoners over a 13-year period.

After Brown was sentenced to life in prison in 1997 for being a habitual offender of aggravated arson, he claims he filed a motion with the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to correct an illegal sentence. The plaintiff claims through the appeals process he was denied his rights because Dufresne, who died in 2010, was alone responsible for handling all pro se cases, in which appellants such as Brown provide their own defense, instead of the court at large.

Brown asserts that Dufresne ordered Peterson to automatically deny them all. The plaintiff alleges when the appeal was denied it was due to the manner in which the appeals cases were held, not the merits of the case.

The defendant is accused of violation of state and federal law.

Damages in the amount of $355,000 are sought by the plaintiff.

Brown is representing himself pro se in the case.

The case has been assigned to Division C Judge June Berry Darensburg.

Case no. 733-031.

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